I have mixed feelings about Ann Patchett. I loved Bel Canto, but I haven’t enjoyed her other books as much (though to be fair, I have not read her entire canon). I didn’t like Commonwealth at all (review here). And, frankly, I can’t remember State of Wonder to know if I liked it or not (my reading of it preceded my blog). The Dutch House was good, but not amazing. While it is sort of the story of the house where the main characters grow up, it’s really the story of Danny and his relationships. Danny’s father came into money through smart real estate investments and purchased a famous home, The Dutch House, with all the original owners’ belongings in the house. He did this without consulting his wife. Shortly thereafter, she left him and their children. Danny and his sister’s story really picks up there. While, overall, the story was engaging, it lacked depth and left me a bit cold.
I have enjoyed Jojo Moyes books very much. Me Before You was an all-time favorite. By happenstance, Reese Witherspoon picked The Giver of Stars, Moyes’ latest, as her November Book Club pick just as I had finished it. Alice has moved to the US after her dream marriage to Bennett. However, life is not as she imagined it would be. She is able, however, to join a group of traveling librarians, makes friends, and changes her life’s course. While this was not as good as Me Before You, it was an entertaining and engaging story that I would recommend.
I almost gave up on Akin by Emma Donoghue (Frog Music and Room). It started, as many have, as a story of an older gentleman whose wife has died and who has planned a life-changing trip, only to find out that he has a relative he didn’t know. In this story, the great-nephew’s father has died, mother is incarcerated, and there is no one to take care of him. While I probably could have predicted the ending of this story, it was well-told and enjoyable, even though it was somewhat like many of the others written about the same subject.
Dominicana by Angie Cruz has had a lot of buzz since the beginning of the summer. It was chosen by the new Good Morning America book club and many of the bloggers I follow have been raving about it. Of course, when there is that much hype, I am generally disappointed. While this was not the case entirely, I thought Dominicana was good, but not amazing. It’s the story of a young immigrant bride who spends most of her new life in NY in her apartment, navigating her new life and loneliness. Some of the story was predictable and some was not fleshed out enough for my liking. On the whole, though, I liked the short chapters and the protagonist. It made for an interesting read about a culture I know little about. I especially liked learning at the end that this was based on Cruz’s mother’s life.
after the end by Clara Mackintosh was a creative and hopeful story, even though, at its core, it was very sad. Two-year-old Dylan has a brain tumor that has been operated on, but his prognosis is not good. His parents, Pip and Max, are not in agreement about next steps. Without giving away what happens, after the end, we follow different paths of what could have happened in Max and Pip’s lives. The story is told from three perspectives, Max’s, Pip’s, and Dylan’s doctors. The doctor’s perspective was fleshed out least, and, if I could change anything about this story, that’s what I would have altered. In addition, I found it somewhat challenging to keep track of which storyline I was reading, even though the year was at the start of the chapter. Overall, however, even though my family could not understand why I would voluntarily read a novel about a child with a brain tumor, it was a wonderful story and well-told.
How could you not grab a memoir with that subtitle?! And, Haben was a quick read that ran in short chapters and moved along at a good clip. While it had a slow start, about a third of the way through, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a glimpse into all the barriers for individuals with disabilities. Before I read this book, I might have said that Haben and what she has done is remarkable. After having read it, I changed my mindset to all the ways that the rest of us make her life, and the lives of others like her, more difficult. What an eye-opening and engaging read. I highly recommend.
While I am definitely tired of WWII books, The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman, was a nice exception and a good read. The story is about sisters who grow up in Brooklyn and can’t get along because one sister, Ruth, believes that beautiful Millie attracts all the boys and is favored by her parents. Ruth marries, has twins, and moves away, and ends up needing to reconcile with Millie after tragedy strikes. I enjoyed the twists and switching back and forth between characters, though there were random other characters interspersed, which I didn’t love. On the whole, though, this was a decent and enjoyable pick.
The Chain by Adrian McKinty was on the NY Post’s best reads of the summer list. That list had some duds on it, so I was skeptical when I grabbed this one. And, overall, it was a page-turning, alarming thriller that, while I had to suspend my disbelief at first to get into, once I did, I was all in. The basic premise is that a girl is kidnapped and her mom learns that she has to pay a ransom and kidnap someone else to have her daughter returned to her. It’s a chain of kidnappings without potential for end because of the threats and desire to have one’s own child returned safe and sound. Ultimately, of course, it’s about the lengths people will go to for their children. A crazy storyline to be sure, but a good read, nonetheless.
I’m not sure how I found We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop, but I am glad I did. It’s the story of an ex-skier who has had some kind of falling out with her sister. As the story is told, past verses present, the rift is explained and everything makes more sense. I enjoyed most of this story, but found the last third to be somewhat slower than the rest. Overall, however, it was an interesting story (if not much of a surprise once you find out the whole explanation).
The Escape Room by Megan Goldin was hyped a lot this summer. And, it lived up to most of that hype. It was a fast-paced, stressful read about a corporate team led to a team-building escape room and the parallel story of another firm employee. Of course, the parallel stories finally come together at the end. And, I, for one, was surprised by the way they did. It was a good read and thriller that was easy and quick. Don’t expect anything deep here, though.